致教育部的一封信 (A Letter to MOE)

本想让这个部落格保持全中文,不过这次想发表的和之前的帖子相关,就破例一次吧。(有一必有二?那是后话了。。。)

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To put this post in context, I have extracted the following from REACH as a prologue:

“At a recent interview with the media, Education Minister Ng Eng Hen shared that his Ministry is studying the possibility of reducing the weighting given to mother tongue languages in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Currently, mother tongue languages carry equal weightage of 25 per cent as the other three examinable subjects, English, Mathematics and Science. The combined aggregate score is used for admission into secondary school.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has been receiving feedback from parents who expressed concern that their children who are weaker in mother tongue languages have lost out on a place in top secondary schools. In this regard, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will review teaching methods of the mother tongue language to ensure that lessons are tailored to the needs of different groups of students, and at the same time, encourage and incentivise students who are proficient in mother tongue languages to progress further. It was noted that such a move will strengthen Singapore’s bilingual edge, since mother tongue lessons will be pitched at the correct level for the students.”

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And below is a letter that I have sent to MOE via their feedback site:

“Dear MOE, in reference to the recent report on the possible reduction in weightage of Mother Tongue for PSLE, I would like to voice my feedback.

This education policy change may likely impact our renown and reputed bilingual education policy negatively. Our bilingualism has served us well over the decades, putting us as a unique breed who is able to compete on international stage. It is a rare competency not possessed by citizens of many countries, until now.

Many other countries like Britain and China have in recent years put in tremendous amount of efforts to boost their population competency by advocating and encouraging them to learn at least one more language beyond their first language. By reducing the weightage of Mother Tongue in PSLE, Singapore not only sends an implicit signal of the lessening importance of Mother Tongue, it represents a huge step backward for Singapore while other countries are moving forward.

Such policy change will impact many generations to come, with the potential bilingual competency now put to risk. Our Government has always advocated us to be more productive in the face of global competition. With reduced weightage of Mother Tongue in PSLE, it cuts a very revered string in our competency and productivity bow while other countries are adding it to theirs.

No doubt Mother Tongue has been a challenge to some students who are linguistically less inclined. However, they will have to realize that this is a challenge that they will have to learn to deal with, as with many other challenges that they will have to come across later in life. Giving them an easier route to vault themselves up the academic ladder does not bear well to developing their tenacity and perseverance, which are some of the important qualities that would benefit them in their adult lives. In time to come when they hit other speed bumps in life, who will be there to erect easier pathways to success?

We have witnessed how our foreign friends who have come to pursue academic education on our shores excel in learning a new language in just a few years. Their proficiency in the new language even beat some of the very best of Singaporean students who have learned the language for a much longer time. What is more remarkable that all this is done without them having to compromise on their own mother tongue or first language. Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has also lauded our foreign friends for their diligence and urge Singaporeans to learn from them. The same should extend to our students – they have much to learn from their foreign counterparts, who have the added difficulty of juggling a new language while adapting to a new country.

I therefore sincerely propose to MOE to give this issue thorough consideration before making a decision, as this is going to impact our many generations to come, and in turn the future development and progress of Singapore.

Thank you,
Jenny Teo”

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I am not expecting my letter or that by others to change anything. We just feel that we have to make known our opinions to the ministry in concern, as our future generations have to contend and live with this policy change and the subsequent repercussions in future.

I have also appended related links by some notable folks and a Facebook group on this issue.


“成功与否,谁晓得?”

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2 thoughts on “致教育部的一封信 (A Letter to MOE)

  1. Hi Justin, no one should be – may I borrow your words? =) – an “outcast of opportunities”, regardless their ability in handling Chinese. In my previous post titled “one medicine for a hundred pains”, I did put forth the suggestion that adjusting the weightage of Chinese for PSLE is akin to prescribing just one type of medicine with the expectation that it’ll work for all ailments. Such a singular method disregards the various circumstances and situations which lead to the arising of the problems (if they are identified correctly in the first place), and does not tackle the roots of the problems.

    I believe the authorities should be looking at the big picture and ponder if the teaching methods (not just for Chinese, but for all subjects) are too rigid in the first place. We have gone through the system ourselves – poring over textbooks, ten-year series and assessment books is probably a common memory for us all, but is that the best learning method? Highly debatable.

    I don’t think it takes much to realise that our system always attempts to fit pegs of all shapes and sizes into a standard round hole, or quoting a Chinese idiom – 削足适履 – shaving the foot to fit the shoe. I’m not sure if this is how many of us want our children to go through. Unless more flexibility is introduced into the education system, issues will still arise and problems will not go away. I think Yawning Bread’s piece suggested something along the same lines too.

    Nevertheless, my hunch is that importance attached to individual school KPIs (we’ve often heard of students being asked to drop subjects, haven’t we?) rather than tailoring systems for varying student calibre could end up being the deciding factor.

    Cheers, Jenny

  2. Hey Jenny,

    Personally, I’m one of those mandarin challenged and I agree with your stand. However, there must be a better solution by identifying these individuals early and equipping them with the basic knowledge of conversational mandarin and encouraging these students to use mandarin rather than giving them a free pass. I’ve survived failing mandarin for 10 years and I turn out fine. I still can’t read, write, or speak mandarin, but that did not change how I turned out. I agree that my choices were limited because of this, which I would rather MOE address this specifically based on individuals rather than as a whole since as some minister did mention, people who have difficulty with mandarin are the minority, but we should not be outcast of opportunities because of that.

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